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Attention dunderheads: Taxpayers are NOT giving businesses £93bn

A look in the ledgers of Trotter & Worstall Independent Traders

Worstall @ the Weekend So I was a little surprised to be told by The Guardian that corporate welfare in the UK is, by a conservative estimation (obviously not a Conservative one, for it would be doing the victory dance if this were true) some £93bn a year.

I was told this by that graduate of modern history, Aditya Chakrabortty, someone I have crossed Twitters with before. So, I thought I'd have a look at where this remarkable number came from. Here's the start of it:

Taxpayers are handing businesses £93bn a year – a transfer of more than £3,500 from each household in the UK.

The total emerges from the first comprehensive account of what Britons give away to companies in grants, subsidies and tax breaks, published exclusively in the Guardian.

The warning signal there is “tax breaks”, because what some might call a tax break others would call simply the obvious matter that the tax system has to bloody work.

Looking around I find that Aditya had written another, very similar, piece a year ago:

Add to that the corporate tax benefits, the value of the cheap credit made available to banks and other business, the insurance schemes run by the government to protect exporters, the marketing for British business laid on by Vince Cable’s ministry, the public procurement from the private sector...

... Farnsworth calculates that direct corporate welfare costs British taxpayers just shy of £85bn a year.

Different year, different numbers of course. But it does rather belie today's claim that this is the first comprehensive totting up of the numbers.

It really does sound very odd indeed. Not at all like the sort of (well too high for my taste) numbers we normally see being bandied about. So I went in search of this Farnsworth and found him:

Dr Kevin Farnsworth: BA (Hons) in Social Policy, MSc in Research Methods, PhD in Social Policy.

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